PASS THE TORCH (old site -- visit new site at

Monday, September 25, 2006

Guess What??

I just launched my new site.
PASS THE TORCH is now located at:

So come on over and visit me for PASS THE TORCH TUESDAY!!

SPARK Peer Tutor Training

I promised I'd give you a rundown on my San Jose SPARK Peer Tutor training, and Delightful Duchess asked for more information, so here it goes!

SPARK Peer Tutoring is a program I initiated as a school guidance counselor, then published when I started my company, Empowering Youth, Inc. Peer tutors provide a valuable service to students, in an era of high academic standards, and low resources. The SPARK Peer Tutor Training Manual gives educators the tools they need to appropriately prepare tutors for their service. Many districts pay for SPARK programming with No Child Left Behind funding.

Tutors learn about the 40 Developmental Assets, student needs, communication, sensitivity and study skills during the four-hour, activity-based training. Sometimes, advisors prefer that I come to train their tutors, and that's what I did this weekend at San Jose's Archbishop Mitty High School. I love these trainings because I'm always so impressed by the youth and educators that invite me.

I promise I'll be around to visit your sites as soon as I catch up. See you for Pass the Torch Tuesday tomorrow and have a great week!

Pass the Torch

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Vote for me!

I'm so honored and humbled to have been nominated for one of Mysterious Lady's blog Emmy awards! But I need your votes, so please go there right away.

There are several categories with excellent nominees. So check it out!

You only have until tonight to vote.


UPDATE: Thank you to all of you who voted for me! The results are in, and although I didn't win an award, I was in excellent company, and it was so affirming to be recognized as a nominee. Please visit Mystery Lady to see all the Blog Emmy winners, including Pink Diary, for overall excellence. Congrats Kailani!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Have a super weekend!

I'm off to sunny San Jose, California to facilitate a SPARK Peer Tutor training. I'll be back next week to give you an update on the excellent youth I meet there.

Have a super weekend!

30 Days of Diminishing Resolve

"Mom! We're going to Wal Mart to buy a remote control monster truck!" Curt squealed as we loaded the car.

"Well that's odd," I glared at my husband, "Since we're supposed to be in the middle of 30 Days of Nothing."

At which point, I launched into a lecture about remote control monster trucks, how we trashed one of them this past summer, how another one languishes in the toy box and how the plastic pieces of garbage are just a ploy to suck consumers in to buying overpriced batteries.

"Curt, you're not getting a monster truck," my husband declared.

We'd already slipped that morning, having traveled to the city to buy my husband's work shoes. We'd put it off as long as we could, but it really was a necessity. We'd also broken down and allowed our kids to spend their newly-set allotment of candy money. We all have our addictions.

Clearly, our resolve is diminishing. We've discovered 30 days is a very long time.

But we have set some financial goals. Both Curtis and Deena have decided to spend no more than $1.50 per week on candy, will deposit $2 per month to the bank, and put $1 per month in the Unicef box on our counter.

My husband and I have committed to paying extra toward our mortgage every month, to work toward paying it off early. We'll add to our giving, by contributing to community drives and sponsorships that would foster our kids' participation, like buying for the food shelf, sponsoring a family's Christmas, etc. And we've learned that by putting off impulse purchases, we often skip them entirely, because it turns out we don't miss the thing we didn't buy. So we'll continue to limit our trips to the city. Period.

What are your financial goals?

More 30 Days posts:
Pre-30 Days
Day 1
Week 1
Week 2
30 Days of Gratitude

For more participants in this project, visit Intent.
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Alibris Secondhand Books Standardsrc="*Y&bids=99238.10000059&type=4&subid=0">

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mommy, Queen of Nags

"I have a genetic predisposition to nag. This, coupled with control freak tendencies, is a recipe for catastrophe..."

My article, Queen of Nags was published today at The Imperfect Parent. Don't you want to know how the story ends?

SIDEBAR BROWNIE POINTS to anyone that goes over there and comments!

Love Thursday


People show it in so many ways. I show it with a hug and a smile, or asking my kids to snuggle in my lap.

But my husband often shows it through play. And he does it better than anyone I know.

I snapped this shot two years ago on a family vacation. And I still remember them playing that day.

Karen and Irene host Love Thursdays. So visit them to get some more love.

But go to the bathroom before reading Chookooloonks. Because, well, her post is really funny;)

How do YOU show love?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Skills for Listening to your Kids

I think it's a natural tendency to believe the most important part of communication is the "talking" part. But that's really not true. The way we receive messages can sometimes play a more valuable role, than the way we send them.

Much of the coursework for my MS in Counseling was related to listening skills. Although I don't always practice these skills, I'm a much more effective parent when I do. We aren't naturally groomed to respond this way as parents (particularly numbers 4-6), so I thought it might be helpful to share a few "active listening" techniques that help to improve communication with kids. (And adults!)

1. Eye contact -- If you're looking into your kids' faces, they know you're "with them".

2. Minimal encouragers -- subtle expressions, verbal or non-verbal, like a nod of the head, or "mmm-hmmm", or "interesting". Minimal encouragers help to keep the conversation continuing, without interrupting the flow.

3. Clarifying -- asking a specific question to encourage your child to expand on their thought, so that you understand completely. "Really? How did..."

4. Paraphrasing -- subtly repeating what they just said. "So math was fun, but you forgot your homework."

5. Reflecting -- guessing at feelings. "Sounds like you were pretty mad at Mr. Johnson..."

6. Silence. Sometimes they don't need anything from you but to listen without interruption.

What helps you listen to your kids??

For more tips on everythingknowntowoman, check out Rocks in my Dryer.

This post is a part of Problogger's always-excellent writing project. Click here for more "how to" posts.


Congratulations to Kallie for being chosen for this week's Pass the Torch Tuesday spotlight post about honesty. Pass the Torch Award winners receive the magnet on the sidebar, the award button to display on their site, as well as front page listing from me for a week.

The Carnival of Education is up at The Median Sib, featuring my post, Email Teachers. Please visit for some thought-provoking reading. My picks this week are What Are Parents Thinking? and Last Regular Day.

And Spunky Homeschool's "Educational Moment" Contest is still open for entries until Friday night at midnight. You could win a digital camera from the Academic Superstore.

Why not to park a bike on the road...

Wordless Wednesday

Get your Wordless Wednesday code here. Technorati Tag:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pass them the Torch

Welcome to Pass the Torch Tuesday, where bloggers share simple and stupendous times kids make us proud. Guidelines are simple:

1. Write about catching a kid being good.
2. Link to here from your post.
3. Permalink your post from here.

Join us with a story or comment. And visit all the participating bloggers! Complete guidelines and former PTT links are HERE.

Pass them the Torch

I'll interrupt my regularly scheduled bragfest about my kids to mention another young person I wrote an article about several years ago.

As a high school guidance counselor I advised a SPARK Peer Tutoring club. During one of our monthly meetings to discuss service projects, one sophomore, Josh, suggested we start a SPARK program at the middle school.

Although this seemed like a great idea, there were many reasons I did not want to get involved. There was little communication between the staff at the middle school and high school, so I did not have a reliable contact there. And I had no way of personally advising a program in another building. I felt that our high school group was already going out of its way to help as tutors at the middle school and I really did not feel like taking on any more responsibility.

But Josh was not expecting me to deal with any of those issues. He was suggesting a project to the group and several members seemed quite interested. So rather than communicate all the roadblocks, I just removed myself from the lead. Instead, I empowered them to find the answers to their own questions. That's really all they needed or wanted from me anyway.

Within months, Josh led the group to identify and connect with interested middle school staff. He wrote and received a grant to fund the project, facilitated a training for eighth grade tutors and handed over a well-organized peer tutoring program to the new middle school advisor.

And I never lifted a finger.

How often we assume that the ideas generated by kids are just going to add to our plate. I wonder how many times I've shot down suggestions from my own children because I just don't want more responsibility?

Have a garage sale. Wash the car. Plant a garden. Stain the deck.

All my kids really need is a little rein, and for their mother to not worry so much about the fact it might not work out exactly "right."

I say, if they want to take the torch? Pass it to them.
Please visit my new website at

Monday, September 18, 2006

Carnival of Family Life

Kailani's Carnival of Family Life is up and she's done a fantastic job of organizing this very diverse list!

My Ticket Etiquette post is featured, and a few of my favorites include:

It's about more than a great school district.
Am I a worse parent than Britney Spears?
Still my sweet baby.
Would you get involved?
Nothing gets past my kid.
Walk a Mile


Though I love the flexibility of working at home, I don't enjoy the intangible nature of what I do. As a fulltime educator outside the home, there was no question that I was busy all day doing whatever educators do. As a stay-at-home mom with two young children, there wasn't any question either.

But now, with both kids in school fulltime, I often feel as though whatever I do during the day isn't enough. It isn't that anyone else projects that onto me, but sometimes I feel it myself.

Where does the day go?

Well, I may be on the phone for two hours trying to get our airplane vouchers redeemed and tickets purchased. Maybe this is the day that I catch up on a month's worth of Quickbooks business accounting, or I spend an hour and a half moving papers from that file into those files and doing the 27 thing fling. I may package games and ship them to distributors from the warehouse office. I may query editors or plug away at my book proposal. Or I could spend an entire morning making my computer ad free, virus protected, backed up and a bazillion kilobytes deleted. And none of this addresses the general kid management and home maintenance that just "gets done."

And then there's blogging, of course.

But nothing LOOKS different.

So guess what I did Friday? I stained the deck.

Now that's tangible.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

So a guy walks into an ATV store...

My husband and son go to a sports dealership. My son runs over to the seven-year-old sized four-wheeler and drools while he climbs aboard.

The salesman asks my husband, "Can I help you?"

Husband says, "No, just waiting to pick up a boat."

Salesman says, "Your son really likes that ATV. It runs $2500, but I could make you a deal on a used one."

Husband says, "Ahhh, I better not. My wife wouldn't be too happy."

Salesman says,

"Easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Obviously the salesman doesn't know this particular wife.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Heard in my World

Ring Ring


"Hi Deena!"

"Um, I forgot the flower for science class."

"Hmmm, you also forgot your retainer yesterday. And your permission slip on Monday."

"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry, Mom."

"I'll be in at 9:30."

"Thanks Mom."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I don't usually enable my children. But lately I've been so disorganized myself, I feel it's hard to expect organization from them.

Do you have any words of advice for me?

UPDATE: Thank you for weighing in on this. On the way home from a birthday party on Saturday, I talked to Deena about my expectations of her. And I explained that I won't be bringing to school the things she forgets. She was very mature about it and seemed to understand completely.


Grab the Scavenger Hunt code.
Photo Theme. Join the blogroll. Visit participants.

Theme: LOOK UP.

Bridge to Sault St. Marie, Ontario. My daughter and I rode our bikes on an island wilderness trail under the bridge near the locks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone...


Susie at Bluebird Blogs is giving away TWO free customized blog designs to celebrate the beginning of the autumn season. For those of you who don't know it, Susie designed this beautiful site.

All you have to do is send an email with your name and blog address to:


by next Friday, September 22, and your name will be entered into the drawing.

I'm getting 5 EXTRA entries into the drawing because anyone who mentions the contest on their blog gets 5 extra entries.

So now I suppose you're gonna go tell everybody;)

The winner will be announced on the Bluebird Blogs website on the morning of Saturday, September 23rd, 2006 . Good luck to everyone!

Halfway through 30 Days

Today I'll celebrate what's gone (relatively) well during the past week, regarding 30 Days of Nothing.

1. On a bike ride, Deena started talking about saving up for some handle bar finger warmers she saw on her uncle's bike. "I think I'd like to start buying things I decide I need, rather than buying things to eat (candy)." For us, this is a major shift in spending. So far this month, the kids have still not spent any of their money.

2. I've decided one of the main things I did right this month is to keep track of what we didn't buy, rather than what we did buy - since the "what we didn't buy" list is way shorter than the stuff we did buy.

3. Two of the four people in our family have made financial goals to include spend, save and give. To find out which two, check comments. The goals will be revealed next week.

4. I read the comment left on my last 30 Days entry by Laurie, a Canadian living in Sri Lanka, and got some perspective on poverty. I read the entry to Deena and got mostly silence, followed by, "Can we talk about something else now?" Awareness.

5. And I bought rice, but have yet to psych myself up for an entire day of the stuff. To be continued...

More 30 Days posts:
Pre-30 Days
Day 1
Week 1
Week 2

For more participants in this project, visit Intent.
Technorati Tag:

Thursday, September 14, 2006


After a long discussion last night, my son stayed firm in his decision to join neither 2nd grade football nor 2nd grade basketball. He's a soccer man. And if that means he only plays a sport in May and June, so be it.

Then today after school, as I prepared to load the car with two kids and the Girl Scout registration papers, Deena informed me she didn't want to be in Girl Scouts this year. The same Girl Scouts that I've served as assistant leader for three years.

Are you sure? Yes. Completely sure? Yes. Piano lessons are enough.

And even though I know how important it is for kids to be involved in youth programming, I said, "Okay." Maybe, just maybe, our kids have a better handle on what's right for our family, than I do right now.

We played tackle frisbee instead.

Feedback? Pretty Please?

I'm part of the Absolute Write blogging chain and this one started with a discussion about the reasons we write. Reading through the chain (below), I find there are just as many reasons we blog. For instance, before me in the chain, my writer friend, Simran, wrote about Indian cinema, a subject about which she's well-versed. Each blogger has his or her own agenda.

So why do I blog?

I've thought about this question a lot recently, partly because I'm converting to Wordpress and need to make some decisions about the direction of Pass the Torch.

Initially, the purpose of this blog was to promote my educational products. While I've done little of that, I've done much navel-gazing, wrist-slapping, and finding meaning in mushy cookies. It's inspired pride in my kids, rekindled my passion for photography, and challenged me to try something, even if I may fail. And by linking to others each Pass the Torch Tuesday, it's highlighted responsibility, empowerment, courage and thoughtfulness.

But as I streamline my blogging to meet personal AND professional goals, I need your feeback.

Why do you read Pass the Torch?

Is it because of the stories about empowered kids? the imperfect parent? the pretty pictures? or my feeble attempts at humor? I love your comments and my site counter shows a whole lot more watchers here than writers. So now's your chance.

What should stay? What should go?

Next on the AW Chain is BCOM. Here's the complete chain of writers:
Food for Thought

When did you know...?

Becoming a blogger

You wanna be what?

Why do we write?

Letters to a Young Poet

Vin Diesel Makes Unlikely Muse

Stop or Kindergarten Nanny Will Pacify

Reel-istically Funny

Indian Cinema at it's Craziest

Feedback Pretty Please

Ten Things You Didn't Know

No One Will Really Be Free

To Boldly Go

AW Chain Six

The AW Chain, The Sixth

AW Blogchain #6

A Walk Down the Hall of Fame

AW Blogchain #6

Sharing What's Important

What I'm Supposed To Be Doing

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The many faces of a photo

In case anyone was on pins and needles (eyeroll) hoping to see the original photograph for today's Wordless Wednesday, here it is.

It's interesting to see the many faces of a photo, isn't it?

Thank you for your many generous comments.

I defer any accolades to my much-loved Canon Digital Rebel XT. (And the excellent genes that skipped my generation).

PTT Spotlight post.

My Pass the Torch Tuesday spotlight post this week is from Unexplored Territory. Meredith shares how a little girl in another family shows courage and thoughtfulness. Spotlight post winners get to display the Pass the Torch Tuesday award button, receive a front-page link from me all week, and they also receive the "Assets" magnet shown on my sidebar.

Be sure to check out everyone's posts this week, because once again, they're excellent.

Please scroll down for Wordless Wednesday and Works-for-me Wednesday posts.

My girl

So which one is better? You'll never believe what the original looks like.

I also wrote a mega-meme post this week, entitled, "the Mother of all Meme Posts". Please add your link there as well. I'm curious to see how far Mr. Linky will go!

Get your Wordless Wednesday code here. Technorati Tag:

Email Teachers

I was a school guidance counselor for nine years, so I have the perspective of a parent and an educator. I know what it's like to manage a classroom full of children, and I know what it's like to deal with them after school as well.

I try to establish a system for communication with my kids' teachers early in the schoolyear. For me, there is absolutely no doubt the best way is email. At the beginning of the year, I ask for (or investigate to figure out) their email addresses. I send THEM an email, and ask them to respond, so both our addresses are in each others' email accounts.

My daughter's teacher also sends weekly notes home in her planner, which has been very successful so far. But sometimes I want to have a connection that circumvents my kids. Their perception of events is often different from that of the teachers, and that of mine, so communicating directly is very important. It also opens those lines of communication so that it's a very easy thing for teachers to zip off a note to you as well. The time and effort it takes to make a phone call, is far greater than an email message, which can be responded to at convenience.

And anyone who's ever visited a classroom knows that it's nearly impossible to have a useful conversation there.

I don't want to discover at November conferences that either of my kids are having trouble academically. I try to be proactive with my kids' education.

Works for me! UPDATE: Please share communication tips that have worked for you. This is the perfect time of year to start doing a great job of keeping contact with teachers.

For more awesome tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer.

WFMW - create a link in comments

Overwhelmed with Joy has this same tip this week (but a different approach), so I added an extra one HERE. (Great minds run in the same channels, my mom always says;))

I've had several people thank me for and ask me about hyperlinking to my site in comments. When you try to visit the site of a commenter on a Blogger blog, the link on their name points to the profile, which may have numerous choices, at least one extra mouse-click, and potentially a dead link or a blog no longer in use (like, they switched to Typepad now). Ugh!!

But you can provide your link within the text of your comment by just converting it to HTML. Here are the directions for doing that when you are computerlingo-illiterate (like me).

1. Use your post editor to translate (in Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, whatever.)
2. Type what you want the link to say.
3. Use the hyperlink button to include your site's address or permalink.
4. Go into the Edit HTML tab and copy / paste the whole code into a wordprocessing document.

Now you have the code you need to use in any comment.

Some platforms won't allow the HTML code, so I don't use it then (or figure it out later and leave a bunch of garboldygook), but it's always worked for me in Blogger and I think in certain platforms your "link" even helps with page rankings and such. Of course, someone way more technically smart would have to explain all that;)

Either way, it saves a lot of clicking for those who read your comments.

Works for me! Now YOU try! Hyperlink in my comments! (I included an example in comments.)

UPDATE: Apparently there may be some etiquette issues with leaving a signature link in comments. From what I've read, most bloggers don't mind, and appreciate skipping the Blogger profile this way. But be careful - some think it's spam. Agh. Rules. For me, please know I don't mind, as long as you're a real reader and it's a real comment. When I switch to Wordpress, your comment will be linked automatically, so it won't matter anyway.

Please visit my mega-meme post from Saturday - I combined six memes into the Mother of all Meme Posts.

For more awesome tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dirty Laundry - Pass the Torch Tuesday

Banner by Bluebird Blogs If you need the code for your post, let me know.

Welcome to Pass the Torch Tuesday, where bloggers share simple and stupendous times kids make us proud. (You have all the way through Tuesday to add your links.) Guidelines are simple:

1. Write about catching a kid being good.
2. Link to here from your post.
3. Permalink your post from here.

Join us with a story or comment. And visit all the participating bloggers! Complete guidelines and former PTT links are HERE.
Dirty Laundry

Pass the Torch Tuesday is about simple and stupendous times we catch kids being good, and this week my example is clearly "simple", but worthy of celebration nonetheless.

Curtis is very disorganized and his bedroom would sink to total mayhem if it weren't for my regular harping. He's also a flutterhead, and I really don't think it's intentional. I can repeat the same direction to him three times and he'll be very willing to go do what I ask, but when he returns a minute later, he still hasn't done the thing. I'll ask him about it and he says, "Oh YEAH!" and runs off again to take care of it. (Mind you, I do the same thing - it takes me three trips up the stairs before I remember what I meant to get on the first trip.)

I was washing clothes and I asked him to go downstairs to get his dirty laundry. He obediently went right down the steps to do what I asked. Deena came in the door a couple minutes later and was bounding down the steps when I called out for her to bring up her clothes too.

Curtis was just coming up the steps. And do you know what he said?

"I got her's too, Mom."

and she said.

"Thanks, Curt."

I'm now basking in simple goodness.

What made you proud this week??

If you have a Pass the Torch story to share, please link to it here or leave a note in comments. And be sure to check out my "Mother of all memes post" . It's a bonus PTT story and I'd love to see how many meme permalinks I can collect there.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

I Remember

*Reposted Today. Scroll down for newer posts.*

I was enjoying a perfect walk on a perfect Wisconsin fall day. It must have been 65 degrees that morning as I pushed my then-two-year-old son in the stroller. We'd just left Deena at preschool and Curt was looking forward to us walking all the way to the high school to visit Daddy. I remember the warmth of the sun and the sweet breeze, thinking there wouldn't be many days like this left before colder weather took hold.

As we entered the high school, I immediately knew something was amiss. Classrooms of kids were hunched around TV monitors. The office staff crunched in the waiting area. When we strolled into the guidance resource room, we found a crowd of students and teachers as well. I saw the TV screen and got disjointed messages from the reporters on the network, and the viewers in the room.

Plane crash. New York. Terrible Accident. Airtraffic. Instruments.

Minutes after I entered the room, the second plane hit.

When the mind erroneously believes something strongly enough, it doesn't automatically switch to logical thinking. No matter how obvious the evidence.

Pentagon. Terrorists. Plan.

We all watched in silence, searching for understanding. I don't even know how long.

Then, too stunned to avert the eyes of my oblivious son, we witnessed the first tower disappear into a billow of death, which created a fog that would hover Manhattan for weeks, and our spirits for years.

Five years ago Monday, the world as we knew it shifted for a generation of Americans that had never known anything but safety...prosperity...peace.

I remember.

If you've written an "I Remember" story, please leave your permalink here. You can leave your story in comments as well. Find more September 11 memories at Rocks in My Dryer.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Catching up

I apologize for my tremendous tardiness in visiting all your sites. I promise my comments on your blogs are still to come!

While I'm catching up, I encourage you to check out the Blogging Chicks carnival, which is 9-11 related today.

And Kailani's Carnival of Family Life is up at Snapshot. There is always an excellent assortment there as well.

Thanks again for reading. Your comments are valuable contributions to my posts, and I appreciate them so much!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Mother of all Meme Posts


Grab the Scavenger Hunt code.
Photo Theme. Join the blogroll. Visit participants.

This is a picture of my kids' kitchen cabinet . After grocery shopping last week, they decided to organize it. At first they argued about what was going to go where. I suggested they take turns or maybe each take a shelf. But the arguing continued, like I wasn't there. Finally, as I made the lasagna and left them to solve the issue on their own, they did.

I wish I had thought to take a photo before, but I didn't have anything to do with this brainstorm. Actually, "before" pictures of anything in my house might be more than my faithful readers can bear, anyway.

I did think to take the after pic because it occurred to me this story would make an excellent Pass the Torch Tuesday post. I caught them being good -- demonstrating responsibility and empowerment, and solving a problem. Then I realized it would be a great Tackle it Tuesday post, even though they tackled it rather than me. And OH! The Photo hunt theme this week is FOOD! Letting my kids work out their problems Works For Me. My Wordless Wednesday posts are never wordless anyway. And can you find THIRTEEN items of food in this pantry??

Just living my life one meme at a time...

UPDATE: If you're participating in any of these memes this week, please leave your permalink in Mr. Linky with an abbreviation (PH, Torch, Tackle, WW, WFMW, TT)

This week's Pass the Torch Tuesday Hub is here.
This week's Tackle it Tuesday hub is here.

Care to jump on a blogwagon?

There are several excellent projects going on in the blogosphere and I'd like to point out just a few.

Today Shannon kicked off September 11th Memories at Rocks in My Dryer. My related post is here.

And while you're at it, consider submitting to the Carnival of Blogging Chicks, who have a 9-11 theme this week. Michele tells that all women are invited to participate!

You'll also notice a "Moms for Modesty" button on my sidebar. This is a lively discussion started by Everyday Mommy. I've enjoyed reading bloggers' perspectives on the issue, particularly Chilihead's series of well-written posts.

Some of you are following my family's efforts with Intent's 30 Days of Nothing. Whether or not you participate in the experiment, there are multiple ways to join in the discussion.

Some of you have commented on my Schoolyear's Resolutions and made a few of your own. The school year is still new in the Northern Hemisphere, so join in if you're interested.

And Kailani's Carnival of Family Life will be up on Monday. I'll be submitting a post this weekend.

Never a shortage of things to do around here, huh?

30 Days Update

If you've been following my family's efforts at 30 Days of Nothing, you know it hasn't been without hurdles.

We've now moved beyond the conversations about the Third World (it seemed they'd gotten as much of the message as they were going to get for now) and have focused on throwaway spending. The first few days were a struggle because you'd think I was asking my children to give away their arms and legs. Now, barely a week into the 30 days, I'm discovering my own weaknesses as well, failing miserably in my efforts to go without.

In the sidebar, you can see the items we've chosen (or been forced) not to purchase. What the sidebar doesn't reveal is the Flash Drive I just had to buy, the birthday gift we still need because of a last-minute party invitation, and the Airtran tickets I'm bound to purchase tonight for our winter vacation, since they just went on sale. Oh, and I'm getting my hair cut. But these are all basic necessities. (right)

So in the spirit of the mission of this blog - which is to empower youth -- I've asked my kids to think of possible solutions to our trainwreck of an experiment. I'm also asking them to set financial goals (spend, save, give). We'll see what they come up with. Stay tuned.

And since "7 Days without pizza delivery" sounds a little lame, I think I'll keep the button while our family learns our lessons about materialism.

To our credit, we're already frugal in some ways, it's clearly difficult for a busy family to shut down spending for a month, and the kids' biggest complaint is caused by candy withdrawl. But our struggle is still a little embarrassing. And eye-opening.

To read more about those participating in 30 Days of Nothing, visit Intent. People are dealing with this issue in many different ways, some more successfully than I. Owlhaven's kids washed clothes in a bucket. And Susan is journaling 30 Days of Gratitude.

I'd love to hear your perspective on this.

UPDATE: Thank you Tonia and Susan for reminding me (in comments) that the process is more important than the product. I know this in general, and needed the reminder that it's true here as well.

More 30 Days posts:
Pre-30 Days
Day 1
Week 1
Week 2

For more participants in this project, visit Intent.
Technorati Tag:

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ticket Etiquette

If you ever delay your speed reduction while entering a pop-out-of-nowhere town in Northern Wisconsin on your way home from vacation, then you may need to know a little ticket etiquette, especially if your nine-year-old daughter happens to be in the back seat.

When you notice the reduced speed limit sign, simultaneously with the black and white squad car, you should slowly / quickly reduce your speed to that approximate level, while acting very nonchalantly and praying you're not the reason said squad car is currently pulling into your lane, three vehicles behind.

As the cars in your rearview mirror pull over and said squad car's lights begin to flash, you will pull to the side of the road away from any intersections, but smack dab in the center of as much attention as possible, still with the glimmer of hope that it's the 92 minivan ahead of you he's after. When you realize the officer has stopped directly behind yours, you must explain to your daughter that you will be receiving a traffic ticket. When daughter asks why that would be happening, you explain that this happens to people who speed in front of squad cars.

When the officer finishes your background check and verifies that your decade of clean driving is not a mask for Jack-the-Ripper, he'll approach your driver's window and ask if you know why you've been stopped. You'll say, "Yes" and you won't mention anything about the slowerthanmolassesinSiberia pickup that's now passing your parked car, still at the 30 mph speed it had on the highway 2 miles back, when you passed it.

When the officer explains he must cite you for speeding, you get a really pained expression as you realize all prayers are not answered. Then you thank the officer for choosing to fine you the $160 municipal ticket, as it doesn't appear on your driving record. You ask if he takes VISA or Mastercard, since it would be ridiculous to drive eight hours round-trip to contest a citation for which you are entirely guilty.

Finally, as you drive away with pink ticket and pinker face, you resume singing the second chorus of Mississippi Girl, after calmly explaining to your daughter that if you do the crime, you pay the fine.

Just in case you ever need to know. Hypothetically

If you have other rules of etiquette, please share!

Submitted to September 18th edition of Carnival of Family Life.

Grandparent's Day

Grandparent's Day is coming up on Sunday, September 10, so I asked my kids 13 reasons they love their Grandparents. This is a list for a total of two grandmothers and one grandfather. (By the way, I LOVE Denise's idea to share things we like about ourselves. But I had just done that last week.)
1. He takes me fishing.
2. She bakes great cookies.
3. She gives me clothes.
4. He lets me ride in his boat.
5. She lets me help at her work.
6. She's nice.
7. He made me an ice shack.
8. She's a great artist.
9. She plays UNO with me.
10. He bought me a Shimano 2000 reel.
11. She plays Yahtzee with me.
12. She listens to my stories.
13. They're all family.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fort of Many Colors

Works-for-me Wednesday

Want your kids to be occupied -- without you entertaining them -- for a day? or a week?

No, I'm not suggesting you buy PlayStations for each bedroom. Nor am I referring to a weekend at Grandma's.

Rather, let them build forts! If you're willing to be a little flexible, you may be surprised by your children's collective creative ability to make something out of nothing.

This is a picture inside a fort my kids built on their own last week and they played in it for DAYS (seriously!) They even added a tent to the end for a while, so they had sort of a duplex. They just rummaged around in the garage and found patio chair cushions, bar stools, ladder, tarp and who knows what else.

This works in the house too, sometimes with the same materials, but sheets instead of tarps. Either method requires some willingness on your part to mow around the fort or stumble through the obstacle course in the basement, but for me, the DAYS OF PEACE made the effort worth it.

My advice? Let them build forts!

Works for me;)

Congratulations to Barbara for winning the Pass the Torch Award this week for her story on Mommy Life entitled, Good News on a Paper Route. Yesterday's other excellent PTT participant posts are HERE.

For more fantabulous tips, check out Rocks in my dryer.

Wierd Cloud

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Monday, September 04, 2006

His sister, the cheerleader

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Welcome to Pass the Torch Tuesday, where bloggers share simple and stupendous times kids make us proud. (You have all the way through Tuesday to add your links.) Guidelines are simple:

1. Write about catching a kid being good.
2. Link to here from your post.
3. Permalink your post from here.

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His sister, the cheerleader

With all the sibling banter that occurs in this household, I sometimes just hold my breath, waiting for an opportunity to catch anyone -- ANYONE -- being kind or respectful. And if my lungs are strong enough, I get my chance.

Curtis has become a great skier this summer (as good as a 7-year-old can be) and even though she's two years older than Curt, Deena isn't nearly as athletic. They're both incredibly competitive, and Curt's following right in his parents' footsteps of I'mneversatisfiedwithjustgood. So after mastering the "water spray", maneuvering waves, and crossing and jumping the wake, he felt the need to remove the training bar that connects the two skis. Then, at the ripe old age of 7 years 8 months he decided he'd like to drop a ski.

I was expecting to need to give Deena some generous strokes, for her solid performance on two skis, while he's out there hot-doggin' one handed while lifting his left foot. But instead, I found myself giving her a different kind of stroke.

She was his cheerleader.

As he'd carefully work the second ski off his foot, he'd stay up for just a split second before falling (again). She'd smile and clap so he could see it, as we'd circle the boat around again. And when he tried SIX TIMES in a row to pull up on a single ski, plowing gallons of water before crashing over and over again, (and never actually making it) she'd yell to him, "You almost got up!"

There are so many ways to be proud of your kids.

One participant will receive the Pass the Torch Award button and "ASSETS" magnet shown in the sidebar. If you have a current Pass the Torch Tuesday post, please leave your permalink in the box. If you're not participating, but you tell your readers about Pass the Torch Tuesday, please let me know in comments - I'll link to you here. Thanks! Mommy Life

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Questions and Comments

How do I love them? Let me count the ways...

In case I haven't mentioned it before, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comments. In fact, I love them so much that I think I'll make them a regular feature. In the past week, I've been moved to laughter and tears by the comments you've all left for me. They're so good, I think I'll figure out a way to give them a place of honor. There's no way I can refer to all of them, but I can encourage you to all read them. I'll mention a few here.

I'll mention Pamela for her comment on this post about the naming of dinosaurs:
There was a 7 year old kid who wrote them down on a cave wall....and his
caveman mom was pretty impressed.. so she didn't wash it off. Good
thing!!! She was one of the original Pass The Torch Tuesday moms.

and Susan for her comment on this post:

"You wrote that so beautifully, Kelly. I was there with you, sharing the thoughts (and the fudge!)Mackinac Island is now on my evergrowing list of places to visit. And having a daughter is now on my list of "wonderfuls."

Actually, there were tons of excellent comments on that post.

Tricia asked if the rays of light on this photo were photoshopped at all. Answer -nope! All natural!

Tonya, asked what was the missing ingredient in our cookies for last week's Pass the Torch Tuesday. Answer - we still don't know, but we sure got a lot of guesses! -- too much butter (knitting maniac), too much liquid (heather), too much flour (samantha), extra large eggs (tc) or swapped baking power with baking soda (mamakaren, lindsey, cameo).

So anyway, thank you all for your thoughtful responses to my posts. I read and cherish every single one!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

On the Road

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This is on the road to Lake Superior, along Hwy 13, taken the end of July.

See you next week for Pass the Torch Tuesday!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Day One

It's Day One of 30 Days of Nothing.

I know it's ridiculous to compare skipping a Dairy Queen stop to starving children in Africa. So I won't. For my family, this is a recalibration on spending, and an exercise in appreciation. Throughout the month, on my sidebar I'll track things we don't buy. I'll also give weekly updates.

Will we succeed? Probably not in the purest sense of the word. My husband needs work shoes and I didn't have a chance to get them in August. And it looks like we're hosting a Labor Day weekend gathering. So much for commitment.

But I'm focusing on choices and conversations. And every time we want something and are reminded we can't buy it this month, I hope we'll have a conversation. I seriously doubt if it will have a longterm significant impact on our spending, but I think this discussion it generates is important. My daughter blames "blogging" for all of this "discomfort", but I think her protests will subside.

I'd like to think we'll eat only rice one day, and my son has suggested a no-electronics day (no electricity seems too far-fetched for us). I'm listening to other ideas as they're offered. And I'm planting seeds about what we could do with whatever money we save throughout the month. This will have to be a family decision, so right now I don't know what it will be.

Here's a conversation I'll share.

On the way home from the post office today, this was our conversation in response to not stopping at Dairy Queen, A&W, or Alco, and why we paid at the pump for gas, rather than inside the store:

Kid: If they're in poor country, why don't they just go somewhere else?

Mom: Because they may not have a horse for transportation, or it may be too dangerous because their country may be at war.

Kid: They should buy a gun.

Mom: Some are too poor.

Kid: Oh.

Kid: I don't think I would want to be alive if I had to live there.

Mom: We're very lucky...

A faint light bulb glimmers.

More 30 Days posts:
Pre-30 Days
Day 1
Week 1
Week 2

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